NEWS

The Scottish health service is to adopt a new financial strategy to cut bureaucracy and help relieve pressures on teaching hospitals.

Chief executive Trevor Jones said he wanted to see an end to the current system, which meant trusts offering tertiary services having to 'jump through hoops' before taking the simplest decisions.

Mr Jones was speaking after last week's news that NHS Scotland was to get an extra£90m as a result of Scottish Executive endof-year underspend.

Each health board area will receive a non-recurring sum that amounts to 1.5 per cent of budget.

The aim is to wipe out historic deficits and allow the new unified health boards to start with a clean slate when they launch next week.

Tayside, with the worst deficit in Scotland, will get an extra£11m to clear the acute trust's deficit and Glasgow will get an extra£1.2m, on top of the 1.5 per cent.

Mr Jones told HSJ the whole system was being reviewed, and that it would address the worries of Scotland's five university hospital trusts. 'We are developing a new finance regime, ' he said. 'We want better arrangements for funding tertiary services. It is a nonsense that if the Western General in Edinburgh wants to employ a cancer specialist, the trust has to negotiate with five health boards to get the salary paid.'

Managers, already forced to make cuts to come within budget this year, will be keen to see new arrangements. So far, there is no timescale for their introduction.

But the birth of the unified boards, which replace the existing trust and board structure with one corporate body for each of 15 existing health board areas, will be eased by the extra resources.

As well as the£68m divided between boards, there will be£11m to help with winter planning.

Donald McNeill, Scottish secretary of the Institute of Healthcare Management, said: 'The extra cash is a real tonic for the service as it moves towards the new unified boards.And It is a godsend for acute trusts, in particular. We have been saying for some time that the NHS should move towards a corporate financial position because, while acute trusts have been struggling, other health bodies have found themselves in surplus.'

The Executive's move was criticised by some opposition MSPs, who said bad management was being rewarded. But Mr Jones replied: 'It is the very opposite of rewarding bad management. Each area is getting 1.5 per cent and those which do not have deficits will have the money to spend elsewhere - a reward for good management.'

He said the extra payment to Tayside could be open to that charge, but added: 'To take Tayside as an extreme example, its£15m historic deficit almost felt too big to handle. Now the new board can move forward without that millstone.'

There was jubilation in Dundee.

Tayside University Hospitals new chief executive Gerry Marr said: 'At one stroke, the health minister has lifted a cloud that was hanging over all of us in the NHS in Tayside.

We can look forward to the future with new energy and optimism.'